This week, Greek authorities began dismantling the Idomeni transit camp, sending thousands of people trying to reach safety in Europe into uncertain circumstances. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) released the following statement in response.
As the eviction of the Idomeni camp continues, the medical humanitarian organization MSF denounces the forced movement of thousands of refugees, the lack of information provided about where they are being sent and the restrictions imposed on humanitarian assistance during this process.
“People are not being informed of where they are going and this is not acceptable. They need to be able to make informed decisions and must be provided with accurate information in order to do so,” stated Michele Telaro, MSF’s Project Coordinator in Idomeni. “They have already fled conflicts, violence and spent more than two months in unacceptable conditions in Idomeni. The alternative to the inhumane should not be the unknown and the uncertain”.
Uncertainty of medical care
MSF’s teams have seen many anxious patients who had been asked to leave without clear information on their destination: “Our nurse reported that the majority of people she saw in the clinic burst into tears when she spoke to them. They asked her where they would be going, whether there would be doctors there. She didn’t know what to say, because we don’t know if an adequate continuity of care will be assured,” continued Telaro.
MSF’s medics consulted patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy who need continuous treatment. These patients are worried about the risk of interruption to their care and are uncertain about what medical facilities will be available when they move. The teams also had difficulty referring patients to hospitals, as those who leave the camp do not have permission to return and a referral could have them separated from their families. Moreover, since the start of the eviction process on May 24, MSF and other NGOs had restricted access to the camp area, with a reduced number of staff allowed to enter, while volunteers were completely expelled from the camp. In these conditions, basic services like sanitation and distribution of food could not be properly assured.
Dr. Tim Jagatic, an MSF physician, describes the deplorable living conditions in the migration camp in Idomeni, Greece. With the eviction of this camp, thousands are being forced to leave, including those in poor health who are uncertain of where they will find the treatment they need.
Claims for asylum should be heard
“Let’s be clear, this cannot be considered a voluntary relocation as these people had no other choice, did not have adequate information and assistance in the camp was drastically cut”, said Loïc Jaeger, MSF’s Head of Mission in Greece. “It is unacceptable to force this move on the resigned and desperate people of Idomeni. We would like to tell them they will be able to re-join their families in Europe, that they will have access to adequate protection, but we can’t. We can’t even reassure them about the conditions that they will find in the new camps”.
“Moving refugees from informal camps to formal camps is not the solution. In Europe, in 2016, refugees should not be living in tents, they should have their claims for asylum heard and be provided with homes so that they can restart their lives in safety,” concluded Jaeger.
Since the beginning of its intervention in Idomeni in April 2015, MSF has carried out more than 38,000 medical consultations and deployed up to 260 staff. MSF has also distributed relief items, provided shelter, water and sanitation.